Worried About Your Art? Trust Your Instincts!

In one of her books, Julia Cameron talks about how work has to be nurtured and protected while it is being developed. As you may remember from a previous post, I mentioned that I was working on a new project with a completely new approach. I did as Cameron suggested, not discussing the project with anyone, while working away. But recently it became time to let the project see the light of day, at least in a limited way.

Since I waffle between confidence and insecurity, as I’m sure many of us do, I decided to show a set of 8 images to 5 acquaintances whose opinions I generally respect. Because this work, which is in abstract photography, is so different from what I have done in the past, I had no idea what the responses would be. The idea was to discover whether there might be a market for this sort of imagery or whether I was going to have to continue making these sorts of pictures exclusively for myself.

Admittedly, this was not a scientifically valid test. It was just an attempt to get reactions—to validate my instincts as it were. My “group” consisted of another photographer, an art professor, an English teacher, a graphic artist, and a theatrical designer, all of whom have seen my past work.

The request was simple. Individually, I handed them an iPad with the images on it, told them what size they would eventually be printed, and said, “Tell me what you think.” There were no explanations, no artist statement, no nothing else.

The results were as varied as the audience. Here is a summary of the responses:

  • All pointed out things they liked; some pointed out things they disliked or found disturbing for some reason.
  • Two people were very specific in verbalizing why they liked what they did and did not like what they didn’t.
  • Two offered thorough critiques, one detailed and one summary.
  • One person “liked” only one image and felt that that image was far superior to all the others.
  • One of the viewers offered some excellent constructive criticism and some suggestions which caused me to look at my new approach in even newer ways.
  • One felt compelled to guess at the technique/process and guessed incorrectly, which may have colored her initial response.
  • One person “loved” two of the images, found one “creepy,” and one significantly less good than all the others.
  • One person ranked his favorite four and gave explanations for the order, some of which had to do with the images, and some of which had to do with his aesthetic.
  • One auditor seemed to understand at least part of what I was trying to do and verbalized it perhaps better than I could have.
  • Two saw “faces” in the abstractions, in different images. This seemed to be disconcerting to them. (There were no intentional faces in the images).
  • Everyone had a favorite, but no two people had the same favorite.
  • Two people expressed an interest in owning one of the images, or one like them.

What does all that mean? To me this means that I’m doing something right. I would have been very surprised, and I think a little distressed, if all these people “loved” everything I put before them. It means I can continue to trust my instincts and move forward in the development of this idea.

Although I thought I needed reassurance, I should have known to trust my instincts. You should too. Make your art. Do your photography. Write your play. Make what your instincts, your guts, your soul tells you to. As Anatole France has said, “In art as in love, instinct is enough.”

Date: Sunday, 8. May 2011 23:39
Trackback: Trackback-URL Category: Audience, Creativity, Photography

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